Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Path To The Dark Side

All of my faithful readers know by now that I love New York, warts and all. As New Yorkers, we deal with extreme noise, extreme stress, extreme prices, extreme traffic … extremely small living spaces … and still we thrive. And we also choose to live here despite the various perils inherent in living in one of the world’s most important and highly populated cities. Nevertheless, we leave our apartments every morning instead of staying home for fear of what might happen on the way to the subway because we seem to recognize that you can’t let fear dictate your life (and we need to go to work so we can afford our expensive rents).

Indeed, as Mark Twain aptly noted, “Courage is not the lack of fear, it’s acting in spite of it.”

However, the truth is that when it comes to relationships and finding a life partner, many fearful New York singles simply don’t act. Their fear of the inherent dangers in dating paralyzes them into inaction and so they never (figuratively) leave the safety of their apartments’ four walls. Or, if they do, it is with enough body armor to withstand a full frontal assault. In many ways when it comes to dating these cynical New York singles act more like the cowardly lion – afraid to put themselves out there and see what might happen – than the tough, courageous stereotype of New Yorkers that the world has come to view us as.

And this makes sense in a way. New Yorkers are achievers, right? Achievers are not used to failing. Rejection = failing = not good. Therefore, it’s easier to act as if meeting and connecting with someone is not a priority and that other things are just more important (work, social life, etc.) than to proactively put yourself out there. This way you haven’t failed in your goal. Of course, there is also the real fear of even opening up to someone in this dog eat dog city. Add to this the fear of not being successful/thin/cool/good enough … you get the point. What if this other person learns that you are not perfect and then tells someone else about it – no one wants his or her cover blown. And, then there is one of the most paralyzing fears of all: the fear of making the wrong choice (“who knows if I commit to this person I might miss the opportunity for something bigger and better?”). The fear of settling for less than what you think you can get can keep one vigilant about not getting trapped into the wrong relationship … and it can also keep one from ever being in a meaningful relationship at all. Yes, in New York, bigger and better is always around the corner.

On top of all that, is the fear of getting screwed (of course, figuratively – not literally). If you have had enough bad dating experiences in this city it’s not surprising that a fundamental need for self-preservation kicks in. As corny as it may sound, dating can be scary. Especially if you really like someone. Getting rejected sucks, plain and simple. Being vulnerable sucks. If you’ve dated long enough, chances are you’ve been burned. You were too nice, too available, too trusting … too flammable. Taking a cautious approach or a preemptive stance certainly helps you avoid being burned again - e.g. "This time around, I won’t show I’m invested until he or she shows me.” or “This person might reject me? F – that – I’ll reject him/her first.” It’s easier to claim that you don’t care if the person you are starting to date chooses to walk away because there are plenty of other quality, good looking fish in this proverbial sea, than to let the catch of the day know you actually care for him or her.

Employing the foregoing attitude definitely helps prevent the arson attack but it also often leads to yet another night of meaningless interactions and lamenting your single status. It’s understandable that some people’s fears of not succeeding might keep them from even trying. It’s also understandable how many people would rather turn their frustration with dating outwards (and towards the opposite sex) instead of figuring out if it might possibly be something that they’re doing that keeps them from getting what they want.

But the point is to confront and surmount these fears. You might confront these fears by going to a party where you don’t know anyone (other than the host – not talking about party crashing here...), or by making it your objective to approach new people at events and not care if you occasionally get blown off (it happens to everyone) … or you might ask people who know you well for honest feedback about yourself and what they think you are doing that is keeping you from meeting the “One” (while the truth might hurt, you will be infinitely better off having heard it).

Of course, many people are in denial – they claim they don’t have any fears (all this talk of fear is far too “Dr. Phil” for them) and so they can’t even know how to confront them. With the New Year around the corner what better time than now to take a cold, hard look at yourself and ask some tough questions. Indeed, before you write your list of resolutions, how about writing a different list first – a list of what fears you have in regard to being in a relationship, getting married/not getting married and what you might be doing to prevent those things from happening. Because far worse than being indirectly called a scaredy-cat by some two-bit writer of a blog, should be the thought that you might be letting fear prevent you from getting what you want in life. And that would really suck.

Maybe it’s time for us all to watch Star Wars again.

[1] Nelson Mandela offered a similar definition of courage: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

[2] “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda.

Curious to know what Sunday at Noon is about and the services Marni offers? Contact Marni at marni@sundayatnoon.com to learn more about becoming a client. Why not give yourself the gift of love this year? Sunday at Noon: It’s completely confidential, it’s fun and it’s effective.


  1. What a terrific suggestion your new year's list is! This one is as if you are speaking to me!


  2. Great post and so true!! Also, any article that quotes Yoda is ok in my book.

  3. Thanks for your comments - so glad you enjoyed the blog!

    Here's to great things in store for 2010!

  4. I couldn't have said it better myself. As a man in his now mid 20's I see so many of my friends who have this fear always surrounding them. The most important, "fear of rejection." I always tell them you never know unless you try. Overall great idea of making a list for the new year.

    -your tennis friend.

  5. Dear tennis friend,

    Thanks for your comment - so glad you are enjoying the blog!

    See you Tuesday!